Sweet Karela Curry Recipe

Sweet Karela Curry Recipe

Sweet, tangy, hot and a little bitter. This curry is an explosion on the palate. The curry goes well with rice and chapatis.

I have to confess, I used to hate Karela as a kid. If given an option, I would not have let Karela come into our zip code. There a ton of health benefits of having bitter gourd but still, the bitterness, oh god no. I remember Mom asking me to try a little piece or some gravy of the curry but I was all against it. I did try to have Karela after learning about the health benefits but then decided to stay unhealthy. I was on the lines of “too good to sometimes bad”. I think even my Mom was struggling to eat karela (never could smile when Karela was on the plate) and I guess that is why she did some asking around and found out a way to drastically reduce the bitterness.

The trick is to rub salt and turmeric on the bitter gourd pieces or slices and allow it to sit for a few hours. A little dehydration occurs due to the salt and some water comes out. Along with the water, the bitterness is released. Drain the water and boil the karela pieces in hot water and for a few minutes. This process really reduces the bitterness and then the seasoning or sweetness in this case helps mask some of the bitterness.

So there is jaggery that brings the sweetness and the tamarind juice makes the curry tangy. The time to prep and the time to cook is not that long. But the bitter gourd pieces need to be set aside for a couple of hours after the salt is rubbed in. So a little planning might be required. Having store bought tamarind paste as well as powdered jaggery helps in faster prep. But preparing the tamarind juice just before cooking always gives a fresh taste.

Sweet Karela Recipe

Prep time: 15 mins + 1 hr to process the karela

Cooking time: 20 mins


  • Karela / Bitter gourd: 4
  • Jaggery powder: 2 tbsp
  • Tamrind: lemon sized ball; Paste: 1tsp
  • Onion: 1
  • Turmeric: 1/4 + 1/4  tsp
  • Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Curry Leaves: 8 – 10
  • Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1 tsp
  • Oil: 2 tbsp
  • Salt


  • Wash and peel the bitter gourd . Cut them into thick circles. You can keep the seeds or discard them if you don’t want to pick out the seeds while eating
  • Add salt and half the turmeric powder and mix thoroughly and allow it to sit for an hour
  • Drain the water that comes out of the karela pieces
  • Boil a cup of water and add the karela pieces. Cook for about 5 mins and then drain the water
  • Cut the onion
  • If you are preparing the tamarind juice, then soak the tamarind in warm water
  • If you have chunks of jaggery or a large piece, then either powder the jaggery or dissolve in water


  • Heat oil in a thick wok
  • Add the mustard seeds and once it crackles then add the cumin seeds. Heat is reduced to medium.
  • Onion pieces go in next. Mix well and add the turmeric powder
  • Add the curry leaves, coriander powder and the chili powder
  • Add the bitter gourd pieces and mix well
  • Tamarind juice: Using your hands, mix the soft tamarind and squeeze out the juice. If you have the tamarind paste then dissolve it it some water before including
  • Add the powdered jaggery or the jaggery chunk dissolved in water. Mix well
  • Add salt, mix well and allow the curry to cook at low heat
  • Keep stirring in between and allow the curry to cook for 10 – 12 minutes on low heat

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